Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Feline Feng Shui?

If you have cats, and you keep them indoors, you probably know something about Feline Rearrangement Compulsion Syndrome, or FRCS, which is a chronic condition I just made up. Or rather, I just made up the name. I certainly had nothing to do with the syndrome, which has been around at least as long as cats have been cohabiting with people. Cats, it seems, are never quite satisfied with their environments and are continually in the process of changing and rearranging, destroying and recreating. The time not spent dozing, playing, scarfing down food, licking themselves, or coughing up hairballs is devoted to moving your stuff around to suit their fancy.

I know, because I’ve been living with indoor cats for many years, and Ron and I currently share our home with three of the little stinkers. When we go to bed at night, the living room, which is the cats’ part of the house, is in perfect order. Or at least it’s as close to perfect as it’s going to get in the care of negligent housekeepers. More often than not, however, when we wake up the next day we find knick-knacks and DVDs pulled off of shelves, pictures askew, lampshades all cockeyed, newspapers scattered and shredded, Ron's bicycle moved halfway across the room and tipped over on its side, even the occasional chair or sofa moved. Sometimes the place looks like the disheveled love nest after Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan had their inaugural boink in The Thomas Crown Affair remake. During Christmas, I have a devil of a time keeping the living room decorations in place, thanks to my feline decorating committee. And throughout the year, anything small and lightweight that isn’t nailed down is likely to be cat-batted across the room, behind or underneath furniture, or even, quite possibly, into another dimension.

Ron has a simple explanation for all of this: "The world is a cat toy." (And whenever we have this conversation, he invariably starts humming the old War song, The World is a Ghetto, which, I am sorry to say, will now probably be going through your head for the rest of the day.) Animal behaviorists, of course, explain that cats are hunters by nature, and in lieu of prey, they’ll slap or bat around toys, food particles, household items, other pets, dangling human naughty bits or anything else that’s even marginally slappable. And then, of course, there are situations in which the wacky reshuffling or outright destruction of household items can be classified merely as collateral damage resulting from frenzied feline romping.

I’d always more or less believed the hunter/prey and collateral damage explanations, but I also believed that sometimes cats mess with our stuff out of spite. They crap in our shoes when they’re p.o.’d at us, or they find some other way to let their ire be known. For nearly eighteen years I shared my life with Bruce, a human in a cat body whom I still miss more than any animal I’ve lost in the past few years. Bruce was a large and beautiful tuxedo longhair who was not only one of the most talkative and profoundly affectionate cats I've ever known, but also, alas, one of the most destructive. Once I accidentally locked Bruce in the bedroom while I was gone from the house for a few hours. When I returned, it was to his loud and persistent complaint about having been imprisoned for so long.

Knowing my little guy’s destructive tendencies, I looked around the bedroom with apprehension. And at first glance, all seemed to be in order, but then I looked over at one of my bookcases and saw that someone had removed an expensive and somewhat rare illustrated children’s book, one of my favorites, and had flung it to the floor. It was only one book out of a couple hundred in the room. Moreover, it was packed tightly in between other books and had to have taken some effort to extract; I’d have thought opposable thumbs, or at least fingers, would have been a minimum requirement. But Bruce, or perhaps some impish creature from another world, had somehow managed to remove the prized book from the shelf (leaving the surrounding volumes neatly in place), toss it to the floor, take off the dust jacket without tearing it, and then crap on the lovely illustrated jacket. The book itself was unharmed, but what’s a book worth to a collector without its jacket?

After that, I was hard-pressed to believe any animal "expert" who claims that our companion animals are incapable of acting out of spite.

But it turns out that maybe Ron, the animal behaviorists and I have never had the whole story about why cats mess with our stuff. It’s not necessarily a manifestation of the hunter-prey dynamic, it’s not invariably a side effect of roughhousing, and it doesn’t always have to do with spitefulness.

It’s very possible that a cat who constantly rearranges household objects may have Feng Shui issues.

Feng Shui, as you no doubt know, is the ancient Chinese art of arranging one’s environment in ways that are harmonious with nature. It’s been around for thousands of years, but in the past decade or so it has really taken hold in the West, and now there’s a Feng Shui "expert" on every New-Wage corner. There’s even a gal in Connecticut who can Feng Shui your food; I blogged about her last September. In cities with a relatively large and influential Asian population, such as my own beloved Bayou City, the Feng Shui influence can even be seen increasingly in architectural design. And that’s fine with me. I’ve always been fascinated with octagons and would someday love to live in an octagonal-shaped house – not for any Feng Shui reasons but just because I think it’s a really cool shape.

Feng Shui is all about placing everything in one’s surroundings in such a way that there’s an optimal flow of a life force known as qi, or chi, as some spell it. I don’t know much about qi, apart from the fact that it seems to have caused quite a furor on this blog and a couple of others in the past week or so. At any rate, the result of this optimal flow of qi is, supposedly, a balanced and harmonious environment.

Apparently humans aren’t the only species for whom balance and harmony are essential. Feng Shui can benefit our animals as well, and I have that on good authority, the authority being Sharon Callahan (pictured above), a Mt. Shasta, California animal communication specialist and creator of her own brand of flower essences for animals. She's got a halo and everything, so I assume she's pretty evolved. I found an article by Sharon in the January 2007 issue of Natural Awakenings magazine, one of those New-Age/New-Wage freebie rags that’s available in a growing number of markets in the US. According to Sharon, "Cats, in particular, are extremely sensitive to the energies given off by different objects and the energies generated by different configurations of objects."

Sharon writes that when she communicates with small animals, which, naturally, she does telepathically, they often convey to her "a sense of discomfort with their indoor environment." She says the cats and other small animals transmit a mental picture to her of the undersides of beds, couches or other pieces of furniture. While these areas may be NBD to us, she explains, they comprise a great deal of our animals’ world.

Many of Sharon’s clients complain to her that their cats frequently explore the tops of their dressing tables, dining tables, kitchen counters, and other places where there are delicate objects or food is being prepared.

"Well, duh, that’s what cats do," I said to myself. They do it partly to see what’s going on in the upper regions of their world, but they also do it for the sheer bloody fun of it – and I just know they score extra points in their demonic little games for knocking valuable items to the floor, or getting their litter-encrusted paws into our food. Which is why Ron and I keep our cats shut away from the food-prep and computer areas of the house.

But Sharon has a different take on kitty’s compulsion to jump up on the table, dingle-berries and all, and get her butt as close as possible to your plate while you’re trying to eat dinner. "When questioned about this type of behavior during telepathic communication sessions," Sharon writes, "cats will often communicate that they like the energy in these places; they experience a sense of order, cleanliness and beauty that they do not experience when on the floor."

Hmmm….food for thought, though the implication that cats are obsessed with cleanliness is a little suspect. So, does this mean that we should just stop using tables and other furniture, and live our lives totally at cat-level in order to make kitty feel included and completely loved? For that matter, should we abandon that imperious upright-walking affectation and just crawl about on all fours in the presence of our beloved felines? Or, alternatively, should we give up and just let the pointy-ears join us on the upper levels? Well, those are certainly possibilities worth considering. (For other ways to make your cat feel utterly adored, click here.)

But Sharon has another idea. Instead of giving up our own high-level living, or resigning ourselves to litter tracks on the stove and cat hair in the soup, we should beautify and harmonize things at cat level. "Small container plants close to the floor, along with mirrors and sacred objects, make them very happy," writes Sharon. "They respond immediately to this arranging on their behalf and consequently, they spend far less time on furniture."

To illustrate her point, Sharon tells the story of how she once created an altar of remembrance for her cat Shoji on the floor in a corner of her bedroom. "I decorated it with fresh flowers, shells, rocks and a small statue of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals. Shoji loved his altar and would spend happy times in front of it, lying on his back in a kitty yoga posture." How Shoji learned yoga, Sharon does not say. She does explain that Shoji knew this was his special place.

That got me to thinking about why Bruce was often so destructive, and why my current crop of cats are all so intent on displacing everything in their part of the house. Perhaps it's because I've never created a "special place" for them. And no doubt the Feng Shui was all wrong in that bedroom I locked Bruce in. He wasn't p.o.'d about being locked in; he was just upset because the place was unbalanced. Who knows, maybe that organic sculpture he deposited on my book cover was just what he felt was needed to restore balance.

I know that by now you’re saying, "Well gee, Cosmic Connie, this all sounds pretty plausible, but how do we know that Sharon is really communicating with animals? And just how does she do it?"

Let me let her tell you. This is from one of the bio pages on her web site:

Although I have worked and communicated with animals all of my life, after a near death experience many years ago, I was given the ability to commune with animals in a very unique way. When I attune to an animal, I experience an actual merging of myself and the animal. In this merged state, I am able to feel what the animal feels and experience what it experiences. So the animal is not actually "telling" me something in the way that we usually perceive of "telling," but it is more that the animal allows my soul to merge with its soul.

I hope that clears it up for you.

Communicating psychically with animals has become quite a thriving industry in recent years, and I’d say it has to be a pretty easy gig. All you have to do is like animals, have a reasonably active imagination, and be willing to take people's money. Piece o'cake. I might try it myself.

Journalist Emily Yoffe wrote a piece in Slate a couple of years ago about her experiences at a workshop with an animal communicator she calls Delphine. Wrapping up the first day of the workshop, Delphine reminded everyone who was going to the next day’s advanced workshop to bring photographs of their animals. The idea was that by looking at the photo of their beloved, they could communicate long distance with him or her. Apparently they would find it easier to receive an accurate message because they wouldn’t be limited by reading the pet’s body language. One woman asked if they could bring pictures of animals that had died, and Delphine said, "Absolutely."

"It didn't matter if the animal was asleep, in the room, or even alive," writes Yoffe. "Delphine implied the deader the animal, the better and more pure the communication."

Sharon Callahan certainly doesn’t seem to limit her readings to the live animals her clients bring to her. When describing the "merging" process by which she communicates with an animal, she says:

This merging gives me access not only to the animals current state of health and well being, but often allows me to view the entire "life stream" consciousness of that particular species. Life stream in the broadest sense is a morphic field or soul group energy associated with a particular life form such as Dog, Cat, Horse, Elephant. or Human. A life stream can extend throughout time and across many incarnations of a particular being or whole species of beings. Tapping into the animal's life stream consciousness allows access to information about karmic learning's being played out in the individual animal and its overall species.

Given all that, I’m sure that Sharon knows what she’s talking about when she writes about the importance of creating a balanced and harmonious home environment for our pets. But don’t just take her word for it. No less an authority than Andrew Harvey, author and "sacred activism" expert, said in a recent interview: "If your animal is happy, the house will smile. And if your house smiles, all your hopes will flourish."

Well, hey, I’m convinced. No longer will I get all worked up about my pointy-eared angels’ penchant for altering my carefully arranged clutter. I’m going to go out to the 99 cent Only Store, where I spend most of my discretionary income anyway, and I’ll pick up some plastic flowers, candles, mirrors and other stuff to decorate the cat-level area of the house, all in keeping with Feng Shui principles, of course. And just for good measure, I'll go ahead and Feng Shui the entire room. That should put an end to the Feline Rearrangement Compulsion Syndrome once and for all. I’ll make the table tigers so friggin' happy that the house will be grinning like, well, a Cheshire cat.

But I’ll still miss Bruce.



Blogger shaza said...

Remember, plastic flowers=extra colorful vomit so be sure to pick colors that go with your decor.

Try getting down on their level, they find it interesting and you can learn a lot about your pets and bond more. I am not a nutjob.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks for your comments, Shaza. You don't sound like a nutjob to me. I was, of course, kidding about the plastic flowers. I hate plastic flowers myself, and I know the cats would probably love them in a way that would indeed result in colorful puke.

As a matter of fact, I do "get down" on their level a lot. I talk to them, I bond with them, I definitely "head-butt" with them, and I have totally accepted my role as cat furniture whenever I'm in their part of the house. They trust me to the point that they let me pick them up and hold them upside down, something most cats wouldn't stand for. They love it. Emotionally, they are as responsive and interactive as most dogs, even to the point of generally coming to me when I call them by name. A couple of them usually respond to hand and eye signals too. They're friendly to other people, they get along well with all of our dogs, and they don't freak out too much at strange dogs. (They're still not as conversational as the late Bruce, but they have their own style.)

I draw the line, however, at feng shui'ing their living area, or letting them into no-cat-zone areas of the house such as the kitchen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 9:10:00 AM  

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